Saturday, 22 August 2009

Briwnant fun ride

Today was the Briwnant fun ride.  We arrived in good time to find Red in and groomed with Dee still out in the 12 acre field.  I went over to catch her, but found her reluctant to be caught.  I gently and quietly stayed with her until she permitted me to put on her headcollar.  She was still slow to come in with me however, and clearly not entirely sound.  Dee would not be going on the fun ride.

We decided in this case that I should go on the ride with Red.  Once we were assembled at the yard, ready to go, Red and Dee began to call to one another.  Although he was obviously excited, he seemed okay at first and walked out quietly enough through the first field.  The first part of the ride was a sort of cross country through the Briwnant fields with a few small jumps along the route.  The second part was to be around the Wenallt trail.

And so I discovered two things:
1. Red can jump... really jump...
2. when he is really excited he is too much horse for me.

We jumped the first three jumps—a single log, another single log and then a stack of three logs— without incident but I was already starting to realise that I was not really managing Red in this excited state. By the time we reached the next field I found myself riding a new Red that I had never experienced before.  He pranced and bucked and was pretty wild.  Apparently he looked quite magnificent performing a perfectly athletic, collected canter sideways as I tried to check him.  I hoped he would settle down as we carried on and took the route that avoided jumps for the next couple of fields and stayed with the slower riders. 

Then we came to the last jumps.  Here the choice was: to the right and a very small jump; through the centre and no jump; or to the left and a slightly higher jump.  It was still only 18ins – 2ft high.  Nicky on the herd leader Falcon, was taking the left hand jump and I had no choice but to allow Red to follow because there was no way I was going to succeed in taking him either of the other ways.  He took the jump too fast, too close to Falcon, and at an angle which meant he did a huge leap over this small jump.  He jumped it like a show jumper and I didn't stand a chance.  My treeless saddle isn't much more than a bareback pad which is great usually and how I like to ride, but I am not a good enough rider to take such a big jump and stay on, so Red and I parted company as he landed.  Fortunately the ground is quite soft there and I fell quite well, so I have not hurt myself.  I will probably find a few bruises tomorrow and I feel a bit stiff in my left shoulder.  They tell me that Red was quite upset that I had come off. 

I did not feel up to the rest of the ride as Red was so excited and I knew he was too much for me.  I'm so glad that it was me on him and not 'ö-Dzin.  I am not the fearless rider I used to be when I was younger, but I have ridden some pretty feisty horses in my time.  'ö-Dzin has no experience of such riding and may not have been able to hold Red even for as long as I had managed. 

We walked Red in circles whilst the rest of the ride carried on to help calm him, and then led him back to the arena.  I got back on at the arena and we walked him round a couple of times.  Everyone was very kind to me.  Red continued to call and be wound up until the rest of the ride returned and then he gradually settled down.

So there we are... not quite the 'fun' ride I had been looking forward to, but I think everyone else had a good ride.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Richard bareback riding

Richard and I went up to Briwnant to ride this afternoon.  I always tend to forget that the riding centre is closed on a Tuesday.  Of course this does not prevent me from riding my horses, but it can mean the tack room is locked.  The only piece of my tack that lives at Briwnant that I would need to use is Red's saddle, so we had settled ourselves to simply ride in the arena, with Richard riding Red bareback.

Dee was near the gate and happy to come straight in.  Red was quite a long way down the field so I gave Richard a leg-up and he rode Red to the yard.  I was proud of Richard because he had to really ride as Red was not being wholly cooperative.

Fortunately someone from Briwnant turned up with a tackroom key, so we were able to ride out fully equipped.  We went the short ride up to the top field and back that I took Red last week.  I felt it was far enough and challenging enough for Dee.  She was certainly up for it however and when we started to trot up the last incline at the top field, she immediately went into a canter.  It is great to see her sound and enjoying being out on a ride.

I'm hoping eventually to be able to do this ride on Dee on her own.  She has always been happy to ride on her own across fields.  It is the track from the yard that starts the napping.  Perhaps I'll try the ride in the opposite direction so that we start in a field.  I could mount Dee from the gate.  It is exciting to think that there might be a little ride we can enjoy together.  I'm hoping to take Dee out for another short ride this week before the fun ride on Saturday afternoon.  I'm starting to feel confident that she will be fine for a two hour ride and even a few small jumps.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

So sweet

Following on from my intention to work with Dee a little more often, we visited Briwnant this afternoon and headed across the fields to catch her.  We called her and she met us part of the way – closely followed by Red.  Dee and Red are no longer always together in the field these days.  Dee has established her own circle of friends in the herd, but nevertheless I think Red is usually aware of where Dee is.

I only had Dee's halter with me.  She was happy to be caught – I think she trusts me again now and is confident that we are settled at Briwnant.  We ambled back to the yard, taking our time, with Red following on behind.  I then brought Dee in and fetched Red's headcollar for 'ö-Dzin to bring Red in.

After grooming them both we did a little groundwork in the arena with both of them—as Red did not want to be left out—just leading them at the walk.  We performed serpentines, circling around cones, circles on the spot, halting and standing, and backing.  The idea is to get her bending and stretching and using her body more than she will just grazing in the field.  Red has not practised so much groundwork with me as Dee and he sometimes seemed a little confused by what we were doing, but Dee remembered it all very well.  I watched her closely while circling on the spot and crossing one hind leg in front of the other as she stepped round, and it did not seem to be causing her any problem.

I hope to have a chance to work with Dee a couple more times this week so that hopefully she will be ready to take part in Briwnant's fun ride next Saturday.  I'm really looking forward to this.  However I don't want to push her too much.  She is certainly no longer lame, but I cannot decide whether her hind leg is still rather stiff or whether I am imagining it.  I shall ride her a little later in the week and see how we get on.  There will be a few small jumps on the fun ride which Dee will love to jump – if she is fit enough.

When we turned them both back out to the field, Dee hung around at the gate a long time, not seeming to want to leave us.  Red stayed there as well.  He would not head back to the rest of the herd until Dee decided to.  I get the strong feeling that Red has a great loyalty towards Dee and feels protective of her, even though he knows she can be grouchy and give him a hard time.  Dee I feel takes Red's loyalty for granted, and yet relies on him and is more content with him there.  He gives her confidence.  They were so sweet today.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A short ride

I spent an enjoyable afternoon with the horses today and achieved what I had hoped to achieve.  Dee came in from the field with me nicely, enjoyed being groomed, and then we worked a little in the arena.  I wanted to move her around a little but not ride her, to check how sound she is.  She is no longer lame, but is a little stiff.  I think I need to bring her in more often and work with her more to keep her supple. 

It is hard for any of us to stay supple in the damp weather we are having.  The weather is quite fickle at the moment – one day blazing sunshine and the next heavy rain.  No one could say that the weather in Wales is boring!

They had got Red in for me, but I did not realise so at first, until someone told me that it was him noisily kicking the stable door.  I don't know whether he had heard my voice and/or was aware that I had brought Dee up, because he does not usually make a fuss in the stable these days.  He spends so little time in a stable now that he does not usually mind.  I decided to turn Dee back out before I brought him down from the stable.  She was an angel today.

I quickly tacked Red up and took him out for a short ride.  I think it is good to take him out on his own occasionally.  I did not have a lot of time, so I just rode along the lane, up through the bracken to the top field and then back along through the high fields.  Although this is quite a short ride—only about 20 minutes—it is quite a good ride to help with fitness.  It is a steep climb up to the top field and a gentle slope to trot up to the top; then there is a steep downward incline, followed by a gently downhill track back to the yard.  I think he enjoyed doing something a little different to the usual ride to the Wenallt trail.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Retraction and embarrassment

Having raved about the Equissage massage equipment, I have to confess that my feelings about it have changed since my last post.  A lot of doubts and worries have crept in to the point that I have decided I wish to return the equipment and claim a refund.  I'm hoping this will be straightforward.

My worries about the massage equipment began to steal upon me as I thought about the setup of the sale and since using the equipment on my own.  I had been offered a free massage session – but this turned out to be a sales demonstration, and a pretty intensive one at that as she was with me for nearly four hours.  This in itself leaves a bad taste with me and also makes me feel a little embarrassed – for being foolish enough to believe it was truly a free session.  Unfortunately I did not take notice of the sales patter and the way I was being drawn in because I believed it to be a genuine, one-off free session.  I was compromised to begin with because I was committed to being happy and grateful for my kindly offered free massage.

The second aspect that set alarm bells ringing is that the demonstrator suggested to me that I could recoup some of the cost of the equipment by massaging other people's horses.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, but on reflection I think it is actually a rather crazy and even irresponsible thing to suggest.  Who would want an unqualified person massaging their horse?  Do I in fact want me—an unqualified person—massaging my own horses?  Dee has gone lame and I just pray this is a coincidence and not the result of the massage I gave her.  Even if it is a coincidence—which is likely—this has still frightened me and I will not risk it again.  It is a very different experience doing a massage on one's own to doing it with a person beside you who you believe to be an expert.  I now doubt that the massage device can never do harm and only be of benefit.  If I were to massage someone else's horse and they developed a problem I would be liable.

Red does seem to be looser after the two massage sessions he has received and he does seem to enjoy it, but I still would not risk using the device on him again either because of Dee's lameness, unless I believed myself to have more knowledge and understanding of horse massage.  I also felt some benefit but it is physically impossible for me to give myself the massage that the demonstrator gave me, so the device is useless to me for that.  I would have to find someone who knows how to do the massage for me.  In the hands of someone who knows what they are doing I'm sure the device can be of some benefit, but I do not think it so useful to me to be worth the money.  I feel I would need to invest in training in horse massage to be sure I was doing good and certain I was doing no harm.

I'm hoping to spend time with the horses tomorrow, to check how Dee is, and possibly to ride Red.